— Defense witness Siryon testifies
In continuation of his testimony in the ongoing trial over an alleged bribery scandal at the National Housing Authority (NHA) in Monrovia, the suspended NHA managing director Dunnah Siryon on Tuesday, October 29, told Criminal Court “C” at the Temple of Justice that Co-defendant Ambassador Augustine Weah (at-large) solicited a bribe on behalf of key government officials, which included President George Weah, in exchange for granting the 50,000 housing units project to GELPAZ-IMMO, a Burkina Faso-owned company.
Further in his testimony, Dunnah Siryon, who is the third defense witness, claimed that he was informed about the bribery scheme when a Burkinabe named Benao Bazonon, widely known as BAZ, gave him the information through a text message from Burkina-FaSo following a meeting between the company’s executives and Amb. Weah, who was then in Burkina-Faso.
GELPAZ-IMMO’s executives had been in the country to sign the pilot project for the construction of 500 units of the 50,000 housing units along the Roberts International Airport (RIA) Highway. But the government is prosecuting Siryon, together with his two deputies Isaac Roberts, NHA Deputy Director for Technical Services and Tugbeh C. Tugbeh, deputy manager for administration, and Amb. Weah, for soliciting US$92,000 as bribe for the company to win the project.
Amb. Weah, who is believed to be the chief executive officer of Guss Group of Companies, is yet to be brought under the jurisdiction of the court to stand trial.
According to Siryon, in one of the text messages at the meeting, Amb. Weah allegedly proposed to GELPAZ-IMMO’s officials that President George Weah had asked him to prevail on the company in order to give the President a share of US$400,000 before the project could be approved.
“US$100,000 was allotted for Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean; US$20,000 for Finance Minister Samuel Tweah; Minister of State for Presidential Affair Nathaniel McGill was to receive US$20,000, while the NHA was to pocket US$100,000,” Siryon said, explaining to the court about the alleged plan to distribute the money in accordance with Amb. Weah’s bribe distribution plan.
Siryon informed the court that after he received the text messages from BAZ about Amb. Weah’s soliciting bribe on behalf of President Weah and his senior cabinet ministers, he immediately took the text messages to Minister McGill.
Siryon claimed that after he showed McGill the text messages, the minister, without any hesitation, sent a phone call to GELPAZ-IMMO’s executives, dissociating the office of the President as well as other senior officials, of Amb. Weah’s bribe solicitation.
After meeting with McGill, Siryon also alleged that he confronted Amb. Weah by reading BAZ’s text messages to him, claiming,” I showed Amb. Weah my phone with the text messages, and asked him why he went to Burkina-FaSo to discuss those amount when he was not authorized to do so.”
Siryon continued, “I read the messages verbatim to Augustine Weah, and later showed them to him; and that prompted a serious argument at my office.”
Siryon also claimed that the incident happened on November 21, 2018.
“But, the next day, which was November 22, President Weah invited us (Siryon and Augustine Weah) to his offices at the Foreign Ministry, where we held a discussion about the text messages,” Siryon told the court.
Siryon informed the court that at the meeting, he told President Weah about what had transpired between him and Augustine Weah, and President Weah confiscated their phones which contained the text messages.
“Our phones were confiscated for further investigation; but not having my phone, it was when I began to hear that there was a recording that involved me accusing Augustine Weah of receiving US$400,000 on behalf of President Weah,” Siryon explained.
He added, “At no point did I say Augustine Weah received US$400,000 on behalf of President Weah or US$100,000 for the NHA. It was a message that I was reading, and my exact wording was I received no US$80,000 from GELPAZ-IMMO.”
The case continues.